"Growth is never by mere chance; it is the result of forces working together." – James C. Penney
In our first article on Accelerating Exponential Growth, we asked the question: “How does a government agency (often grappling with tight budgets, aging infrastructure, and competing citizen and political priorities) move through modernization to acceleration?”
The answer lay within the six characteristics of exponential leadership (from Ismail’s Exponential Organizations):
- Visionary Customer Advocacy
- Data-Driven Experimentalism
- Optimistic Realism
- Extreme Adaptability
- Radical Openness
Last month we took a deeper dive into the first characteristic. In this article, we’ll look at good examples of the second.
Data-Driven Experimentalism - “To create order out of high-speed chaos requires a process-oriented approach that is ultimately nimble and scalable.”
Imagine you’re running a race on a trail that suddenly dead-ends, leaving you standing on a bank, looking into a muddy expanse of rushing river. Six feet across the way, the trail continues. Below, the water has swallowed the splintered remains of the bridge that used to span the gap. What do you do? Do you turn back, lose all your progress, and never learn what lies beyond the barrier? Do you sprint wildly toward the edge and leap, hoping you make it and stay ahead of the pack? Or do you run along the riverbank looking for an easier way to cross to the other side?
Government leaders frequently face this kind of crossroads. Exponential thinkers know that a status quo mindset dooms organizational progress—but dashing unprepared into the unknown is equally unwise. So how can you strike a balance that allows you to lead your team into the future in a curious, agile, adaptable way, while limiting your wrong turns?
Data-Driven Experimentalism means understanding the landscape, visualizing success, planning small sprints, measuring, and scaling what works. As seen in the following case studies, public entities nationwide are doing just that.
Unleashing the Power of an Open Data AI Ecosystem
In October 2018, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Presidential Innovation Fellows (PIF) kicked off a 14-week tech sprint with the purpose to transform federal open data from HHS, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), and other agencies into digital tools. Modeled after The Opportunity Project (TOP) at U.S. Department of Commerce, the TOP Health tech sprint was specifically designed to improve the patient experience.
Only three months later in January 2019, seven TOP Health teams delivered digital tools—all built with federal data and leveraging emerging technology like artificial intelligence (AI), apps, and gamification—to improve clinical trials, experimental therapies, and data-driven solutions for complex challenges that range from cancer to tick-borne diseases (such as Lyme disease).
This effort underscores the exponential power of collaboration and data sharing to create transformation in a way that truly connects government with citizens, delivering practical impact through experimental technologies.
Prototyping for the Future of Data, Dashboards, and Storytelling
The growth of open data enables the American public and private sectors to be more involved in the civic tech process and innovation. Public agencies are eager to show these results and visualize their impact with evidence-based data to tell dynamic stories and inspire their employees and constituents.
This desire led 14 federal agencies to convene in a July 2019 interactive workshop on data storytelling, where they prototyped solutions to questions such as:
- How might we prepare our federal leaders with the tools, skills, and mindset to design more useful dashboards that tell a story?
- How can we use our creativity to explore new visuals to make the complex more simple?
- What role does storytelling and project-based learning play in ushering new policy forward and facilitating change in a smart and more effective way?
Similarly, the U.S. Department of Education and the Data Quality Campaign invited the public to join them in November 2018 for two days of sketching, prototyping and building solutions to help states design family-friendly approaches to report cards that make school data more transparent and accessible. The findings are an interesting look into what’s important to have on report cards, what has improved, and how schools are using tech or outsourcing to vendors to deliver the data in a meaningful way—not just for parents tracking their kids’ progress, but for schools and other public entities working to create a roadmap for future educational initiatives.
So, harkening back to the beginning of this article and armed with this information, how would you approach your riverbank quandary?
First, understand the landscape. Analyze what you know. Observe, conduct research, and crowd-source ideas from others who might better understand the landscape. Most importantly, avoid noise—be choosy about the data you use in your decision-making. Knowing that riverbeds are generally comprised of sand, loam and clay isn’t helpful here. Knowing that there’s a narrower crossing point with stepping stones a hundred yards away, is.
Next, visualize success and set your azimuth. If you’re heading into unfamiliar territory, it’s smart to assess your options. Once you know your potential outcomes, you can set a series of sprints to get there.
Short sprints limit the distance you go before checking to be sure you’re still on track. This reduces the chance of costly backtracking. You may need to make adjustments, so you build them into the next sprint leg, along with your learning.
Exponential leaders, looking at the data, the competition, and the capabilities of their teams, are willing to experiment in order to potentially make huge gains in their organization.
Finally, take the leap. You’ve gathered and organized the pertinent information, weighed the risks and rewards, and made the educated determination that your solution is feasible. On the other side lies exponential potential for you to measure, adjust to, and scale so that you continue on the best path forward.
All that’s left to do is try it.
Ready to bridge that gap to the future? Direct Technology is ready to help you get over your next obstacle and on your way to exponential. Visit our GovSolutions Page for more information about our digital tranformation services.